Cancer Pain Management: Implications for Psychologists

Stacy Ogbeide, Arissa Fitch-Martin


Aim: Pain is a common and a complex experience among patients with cancer. The purpose of this review is to provide a rational for a psychologist’s role in cancer pain management and a guide for doing so based on an examination of the current cancer pain literature. Method: A literature review was conducted using the search terms: “cancer pain” AND “nonpharmacological interventions”, “cancer pain”, and “pain management” AND “cancer pain”. Peer-reviewed articles (published between 2000-2015) in which the authors had access to the full-linked text, books, and websites were included. Results: A total of 451 hits were returned of which 53 were relevant and considered for this review. These were then organized into the following topics: complex cancer pain syndromes, current cancer physiological therapies, the multifactorial model of cancer pain, psychosocial assessment and interventions, barriers to treatment, and clinical implications that impact the future of behavioural interventions as part of cancer treatment. Conclusion: Each patient with cancer has a unique pain experience that is shaped by biopsychosocial factors. Because of this, using a multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach is needed to optimize treatment outcomes. To maximize their role, psychologists need to help facilitate this process and to address any attitude and/or knowledge shortcomings they may have.


cancer pain; pain management; nonpharmacologic interventions